Cell phones in the theater hall

"There are people who spend the entire evening on their mobile phones, and we can feel that."


Something hairy touches her bare arm. Liesbeth wakes up with a start. There is a black labrador on her picnic blanket.
"Brutus, here!" His owner comes running. She hooks the dog on a leash. “Sorry! I should have kept him on the leash." 

This is also the case with mobile phones in the theater. You have to consider the others around you.

"Nothing is as irritating as smartphones," says actor Huub Stapel (known from one-man shows such as Het Huwelijk and Mannen komen van Mars, Vrouwen van Venus). “They make you lose your concentration and they disturb the performance for others. As far as I am concerned, they should be banned."

Comedian Bert Visscher agrees: “I always see a phone light up somewhere during the show, or I see red lights from the people who are filming. I find it annoying and disrespectful."

According to choreographer Isabelle Beernaert, you are unable to “feel the subtle energy that dancers put into their performances when you have a phone in your hand.” Timothy Deelstra, singer from the tribute band Queen The Music, concurs: 'We see illuminated faces everywhere in the auditorium. There are people who stay on their mobile phones the whole evening. We feel that. We get less energy from the audience. And thus, we give less energy back." 

How many people use mobiles phones during a show?

"That differs per genre," says Koen van Kollenburg. He is a technician at the Parktheater, and he has a good view of the audience from the lighting booth at the back of the auditorium. “During the lighter genres, such as musical shows and pop music, I sometimes see one mass of light – for example, like last November when the popular close-harmony group O'G3NE performed. Tomorrow, we have Oedipus from Internationaal Theater Amsterdam performing. It will be completely different there; you won't see a single mobile phone because the audience who comes to plays is older. You can generally say: the younger the audience, the more mobile phones present. I think people should respect the artists. They are up there trying to do their best for their audiences. "

Yes, but aren’t they also helping to promote the artists?

"It is indeed good advertisement for us if people share photos and comments via social media," says singer Timothy Deelstra. "But the quality of the images and videos is usually poor."

Comedian Rob Scheepers adds: “You see shaky images, recorded by a bad camera. Moreover, they are loose fragments, or jokes without context. These do not adequately reflect the energy in the room. That's why I don't allow the making of videos during my shows. But I think it's great when people take pictures; they are happy and proud to be in the auditorium. They want to share that." 

Huis met een Kluis
Huis met een Kluis
In the Theater Café, there is a Huis met een kluis (storage safe for mobile phones), a little white “house” where you can safely store and charge your phone during the show. The use of the safe is very simple. You will find instructions next to the storage safes. Each locker has three cables that fit most brands of telephones. 

Why don't you simply prohibit mobile phones?

"Forbidding is the opposite of trust," says Giel Pastoor, director of the Parktheater. “I do not want that. I prefer to see people think for themselves: ‘if I am a burden to others, I will do something about it.’ We try to encourage that awareness with, for example, Huis met een Kluis.”

These little white “houses” are located along the walls in the Theater Café on the lower level. The last house on the corner, Huis met een kluis, has eight storage safes in which visitors can charge their phones. Next to the safes, visitors can read about how artists perceive and react to mobile phones during performances.

Pastoor: “Just as some want their freedom to use their mobile phone, there are other audience members who want a different freedom: to experience a performance without mobile phones.” 

Table-mode-menu

The theater is not the only place where mobile phones evoke annoyance. "More and more people are using their smart phones at the table", says restaurant owner Tom Van Lysebettens from Ghent. "Sometimes I think they forget why they go to restaurants: the food, the atmosphere, and the company."

Van Lysebettens came up with a solution: he made a table-mode-menu. Diners can only choose that menu if their mobile phones are turned upside down on the table and placed under a transparent cutting board. Diners are then separated from their smart phones for the duration of 8 courses. 

Rijksmuseum

People can also use mobile phones in a positive manner. Since its reopening in 2013, visitors can photograph and film as much as they want in the Rijksmuseum. The museum, which promotes the belief that art belongs to us all, embraces mobile phones because they can enrich the visitor’s viewing experience. A special Rijksmuseum app gives people access to the entire digitized art collection. 

For example, people can view artwork details in the app or create their own art collection and make a guided route out of it. A musician who only wants to see works of art with musical instruments can tour the museum using his personal guided route. Additionally, the app tells the stories that go along with each of the artworks.

A short summary 

  • The use of mobile phones disrupts the artists’ concentration.
  • The younger the audience, the more mobile phones present in the auditorium, especially during musical shows and pop music. 
  • Most artists understand if visitors want to take photos and share them. But, they usually find that poor quality of videos are more of a detractor. 
  • Consider your fellow audience members and the effect that your mobile phone will have on the artists.


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